Chapter 7 Meet the ‘Holy Family’: From Multicultural Australia to Enforced Reconciliation in Baz Luhrmann’s Australia (2008)

In: Nationalism and the Postcolonial
Hanna Teichler
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Baz Luhrmann’s filmic epos Australia sets out to imagine a national narrative that ‘corrects’ many of Australia’s historical errors. It tasks itself with empowering Australia’s indigenous peoples, and with reversing power relations by representing indigenous peoples as powerful. Australia is particularly productive when it addresses and challenges Australia’s prominent racism. The film moreover feminizes the bushman myth. This contribution shows that during the transformation of Lady Ashley into a female drover, the Australian outback as the space where a distinctly Australian national identity is negotiated becomes the arena of cultural encounters. Australia effectively counters colonial hierarchies in that outback. Most importantly, the movie suggests that, without Aboriginal intervention, Lady Ashley’s ‘Australian Dream’ would have never come true. Luhrmann’s feature film breaks open the monolithic nature of the Australian national narrative as white and male, perforating it with a plethora of intertextual references and ironic comments. However, Australia is arguably the most pertinent example of the paradox of reconciliation: despite its interventional qualities, Luhrmann’s identity-political project culminates in imaging Australia’s ‘holy family’ with the allegorical adoption of the Aboriginal character by the English lady and the cattle drover. Having reconciliation thus foisted on them, Aboriginal Australians are incorporated into the national framework to further serve a national myth.

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